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Technology and Health News > Monday, May-11-2009

Towards the super hydrofobic materials

Small robots that walk on water like insects? The kitchen table, the walls of a room or the arms of an armchair that are self-cleaning? Two phenomena that Xiao Cheng Zeng, a professor of chemistry at University of Nebraska in Lincoln (USA), considers possible in the near future, and based on the same characteristic: super hidrofobia.

Thanks to the computational performance of the super computer of the Riken Institute in Japan, the researcher is able to reproduce the conditions that give the area the property is to "roll" away the drops of water.

In nature this phenomenon is observed on the bristles of caterpillars or on lotus flowers, and allows insects that often are seen on ponds slip skate on water. As the authors of the study reported the caterpillars or insects skaters get the super hydrophobia surface through a "two-tier" surface which means a waxy base on which there are microscopic structures like hair, often covered in turn by smaller "hair".

These gradients decrease the surface area in contact with the drop of water. The result is that the drop rolls instead of sliding, as it would be a hydrophobic surface.

Tens of thousands of simulations (droplets of various sizes which move at different speeds on most materials) have led researchers to determine the optimum height of the levels of "hair" and the distance that must exist between these structures for the surfaces to be super hydrophobic.

So, it may soon be possible to have a self cleaning kitchen table, to which dirt and liquids don't stick.

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